Published October 10, 2022
Buffalo-based entrepreneur Adam Utley knew he had something. Just a few years ago, he wanted to start a biotech company that would create better cancer treatments by preserving immune cells from the blood of patients, the “body soldiers.”
“Immune cell soldiers can be retrained to fight cancer rather than viral or bacterial infections. This approach has cured cancer in certain patients,” said the founder of Immunaeon, now Utley, owner and CEO, said.
“The challenge was how the cancer turns off the immune cells, basically taking away the guns and ammunition that the immune cells use to kill the cancer. Being able to store it maximizes our chances of creating a cure for cancer if we get sick,” he explains.
“We knew there was a market opportunity to bring Immunaeon to life, but our team barely understood what it meant to start a company.”
That’s when he first reached out to Matthew Pelkey and the law school’s Entrepreneurship Law Center Clinic.
“Matt and his team helped me understand the basics of building a company from scratch,” says Utley. “They gave us insight into corporate structures, best practices, regulatory pathways, and helped us build the company from the ground up.”
Immunaeon is another e-Law Center Clinic success story. The e-Law Center Clinic is a growing student-led institution providing legal services to entrepreneurs and start-ups who are unprepared or unable to engage outside legal counsel.
For over five years, approximately 30 student, staff and faculty-led companies have submitted applications each semester to work with the e-Law Center Clinic. The e-Law Center Clinic provides a guide to solving important legal issues and issues facing new and fledgling companies.
“You don’t even know…”
“When you start a business, especially for first-time founders, there are a lot of business and legal issues to navigate. says Pelkey, the clinic’s program director. “You don’t even know what you don’t know. Having mentors out there, having resources out there, is critical to avoiding common mistakes.”
“As practitioners, we fill a gap in the market because often these companies don’t have the funds to hire the right lawyers. So they go online. They have their uncle’s nephew take out their next-door neighbor twice, and in the process they create more problems than they ultimately solve,” he says.
“By working with the e-Law Center Clinic early on, we can make these companies as successful as possible. can be avoided.”
The clinic represents startups during the academic year and its services are available to faculty, staff, alumni and students. According to Pelkey, the clinic will help everyone in the UB Partner Association, a number of groups including Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Hauptman Woodward Medical Research Institute, Kaleida Health, Jacobs Institute and Western New York Incubator Network. To do.
“The only caveat is that it must not be an investor-funded business,” Pelkey says.
From students to visionary entrepreneurs
According to Pelkey, not all businesses handled by the e-Law Center Clinic are booming. “We work with a lot of small businesses that never intend to raise money. It could be a cafe, a T-shirt company, or something as simple as painting a face.”
Students can expect experiential learning challenges while developing skills in critical thinking and hands-on research, drafting, and client management. Students are expected to demonstrate critical thinking and judgment, a service orientation with clients, and a communication and practice orientation. The e-Law Center Clinic also supports Minority and Women-Owned Businesses (MWBEs), conducting research and applications to break through traditional venture investment barriers.
Pelky got the idea for the e-Law Center Clinic while teaching. It was a candid lecture, he said, where he talked to students about these startup issues. This idea led to a meeting with Dean Aviva Abramowski and a proposal for a grant related to the Office of the Business Entrepreneurship Partnership.
The clinic also acts as an in-house counsel for university investment transactions through the iHUB program. “Our students work on these investment deals, assist with due diligence, prepare transaction documents and interact with company attorneys, under our supervision,” he says Pelkey. .
“It’s a really great experience. Students can usually see everything from how the seat is put together, to the due diligence process, to the purchase agreement, to the investment vehicle. Then it’s closing. Great for students.” It is an opportunity for
Local entrepreneurs share the opportunity.
“The e-Law Clinic has been instrumental in building our company and has been an incredible asset as we move forward toward our first round of funding through our UB Business and Entrepreneur Partnership Program,” said Utley. . “Without their guidance and help, Immunaeon would not be what we are today.”